STEVE INSKEEP, host:

The effects of this storm reach all the way north to St. Paul, Minnesota, where the Republican National Convention is supposed to begin today. But there will be an abbreviated schedule.

We're going to get some analysis now from one of our political experts, who's also an expert on the state that is in the path of the storm. NPR's Cokie Roberts is in St. Paul. Cokie, good morning.

COKIE ROBERTS: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What does it mean to the Republicans that this convention is now on a short schedule?

ROBERTS: Well, it certainly reminds us that events can change campaigns, and the fact that not only is this a frightening event, but the gas prices are likely to go up as a result of it, all of that has an impact. But you know - and also, I think John McCain didn't need a reminder of how badly the Republican administration had handled Katrina, and this certainly does bring all of those bad memories back up. But there are some advantages here.

The president and vice president are not popular with the American people, and they're not here in St. Paul, and that works for John McCain.

INSKEEP: They canceled their appearances.

ROBERTS: They canceled their appearances, and the truth is, he'd prefer a maverick convention to a Republican convention, if the truth be told, and he - this way he gets to show that he is very much paying attention to the hurricane.

He and his vice-presidential choice, Sarah Palin, went to Mississippi yesterday, making it clear that they're on the case, and they're saying they're not even sure where they're going to give their acceptance speeches. It might be here in St. Paul, or they might beam them in from the Gulf Coast.

INSKEEP: I bet this hurricane has not stopped Republicans from talking about McCain's vice-presidential choice.

ROBERTS: Well, she's certainly gotten a great deal of attention, and she has gotten tremendous excitement, Steve, from the Republican base, which was not excited about John McCain, and among other politicians in this party; they are hoping that maybe she will get some of those Reagan Democrats who might respond to her plain-talking, gun-toting ways.

One thing that works in her favor is she's not known to the Washington press, and that was a big problem when Dan Quayle, for instance, was named. We all knew him, and Bush the First got a great deal of grief because of that fact because politicians were on the floor of the convention, which was ironically in New Orleans, and they would say, you know, oh, we know Dan Quayle. He's a lightweight.

You don't have that same knowledge of Sarah Palin here. So it's going to be interesting to see how it plays out.

INSKEEP: Cokie Roberts, we've just got a few seconds, but you must be like millions of people who know somebody along the Louisiana coast and have been phoning down to see what's going on.

ROBERTS: Actually, everybody that I know has left, and that's very different from Katrina, and of course the response of the city, the state and the federal government are very different, I'm happy to say. But you know, Steve, the city of New Orleans is so poised for a complete comeback.

The restaurants are up and running, the hospitality business is up and running. Yes, there are still 65,000 blighted properties, but there's much good going on.

Tulane University had 34,000 applications for 1,500 places this year, and that's all about the community service that the university is now touting. I just hope that this doesn't ruin all that hard work that has gone on for the last three years.

INSKEEP: Okay, thanks very much. That's NPR's Cokie Roberts, joining us once again for analysis, as she does every Monday morning. She's at the Republican convention in St. Paul, which will be abbreviated somewhat and perhaps a great deal because of Hurricane Gustav.

Of course we're also continuing to track the storm itself as it comes ashore in Louisiana. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News.

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